As 2018 approaches, leading companies will pioneer new trends in supply chain management. With new competitors using state-of-the-art technology, established companies need to adopt these technologies as well, integrating them into pre-existing systems or overhauling older systems. Those that do will transform into innovative companies that offer customers the best in transportation service. Those that don’t will continue down the path to irrelevance. Let’s explore some of the most successful trends from 2017 to prepare for improved capabilities in the year ahead.
No Longer a Choice
Less than a decade ago, most transportation companies expected to be able to continue operating the way they always had. They offered clients reliable service at a reasonable price. As long as orders arrived on time, they had all the work they could handle. However, with the arrival of transportation management software (TMS), businesses that quickly embraced change started to edge out competition.
Advanced analytics enabled transportation companies to refine routes and cut costs as never before. Automated fleet management showed every step of the supply chain in real-time. At the same time, retailers that had been household names for almost a century went out of business because of competition from online retailers. Companies that adapted quickly were able to offer more competitive pricing, and those that didn’t soon found themselves out of work. Adopting transportation management software is no longer an option; it is a requirement for staying in business.
Software Offers Continually Improving Visibility
In the past, vendors had no real way to track goods once they left their facility, and manufacturers had difficulty planning production because they couldn’t know exactly when materials would arrive. Containers loaded on ships disappeared into a black hole until they crossed the ocean and arrived at their destination port. A major development this past year has been implementation of software systems that offer real-time visibility.
One of the biggest trends involves last-mile delivery. In supply chain management, last-mile delivery tracks merchandise movement from the final transportation hub to its end destination. Faster fulfillment enables shipping of items that have to be delivered within a narrow window. Amazon hires independent contractors for fast delivery, but even legacy carriers are improving shipment traceability for improved customer service.
Small and Mid-Sized Companies Adopting TMS
In the past, the high cost of transportation management software kept small and mid-sized shippers from benefitting from its capabilities. As systems have become available on a subscription basis with cloud availability, a wider range of companies have obtained access. Smaller companies use TMS to manage skyrocketing transportation costs and the growing driver shortage.
As companies face increasing demand to deliver freight faster and cheaper, along with increased technology capabilities when it comes to sourcing carriers and tracking shipments, many are beginning to build partnerships with nontraditional shippers. Truckers can arrange long-haul freight using their smartphones and offer mobile freight tracking that gives suppliers peace of mind. Independent local contractors can offer competitive rates for last-mile delivery larger organizations can’t match.
In the next year, shippers will continue to face challenges in upgrading software, refining cyber security and providing ever more efficient service. Those with advanced technology will most likely be the ones who get ahead.